Is Nothing Secular?

For most of my life I had this idea that some things were “sacred” and other things were “secular.”

The church building, the Bible, communion, baptism, church camp, hymns, southern gospel music…all sacred.

School, work, pop music, tennis, bowling, free time hanging out with friends, movies, model trains…secular.

“Secular” didn’t mean “sinful.” The secular things could become sinful if we weren’t careful, though. The content of the specific pop music we were listening to, for example. Or what we actually did with our free time. But the concept of “secular” to me was simply a category of things that God was not directly involved in, or didn’t really care about.

There is comfort in seeing life this way. I could separate areas of my life into these categories. Yes, I would have to dress up and be on my best behavior when I was in church (sacred), but was free to let my hair down and have fun when I was at the bowling alley with my friends (secular). I could enjoy and appreciate the beauty and the feeling of being close to God when I was at camp singing “He’s Everything to Me” around the fire (sacred), while at other times I could enjoy the power and thrill of playing a Stan Kenton jazz band arrangement of “Here’s That Rainy Day(secular).

It was also comfortable for my friends who weren’t Christians. They knew I went to church, but their expectation was that I wouldn’t bring that Jesus stuff (sacred) to school with me (secular). And they were generally correct.

Over the years I’ve begun to realize, however, that this is completely screwed up.

What I’ve discovered is that there is no such thing as “secular.”

Now, if you’re not a person of faith, you may think that’s a typo. If you’re not a believer in God you probably think there’s no such thing as “sacred.” I can see why you would think that. I believe you are wrong, but I understand. It’s ok, because you believe I am wrong, too.

But if God is at all real, then it makes sense to me that “secular” is just a social construct for the places and things we want to keep God away from…as if we could.

I believe this is at the heart of much of the religious freedom debate. It’s comfortable for our culture to think in these categories because then it makes sense to keep faith out of the public (secular) forum and limit religious practice to our worship assemblies (sacred). It’s also comfortable for us believers because we tend to accept these limitations.

I also tend to think that this is part of the issue in the debate over how we worship within the church. Many tend to think: Organ, choir, hymns, stained glass = sacred. Guitars, drums, pop music, theater lighting = secular. If you think this way, I understand. I think you’re wrong, but I get it.

I’ve been involved in worship ministry for over 30 years and I can tell you that those who think this way don’t listen to organ music (sacred) on the radio in their car (secular).

A couple years ago Kathie and I took a trip to London. I loved the feeling of worshipful reverence we experienced when we attended Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral. St. Paul’s is unbelievably beautiful and awe inspiring, but it is no more “sacred” than the crosswalk at Abbey Road or 221b Baker Street. God is present at all of them.

Is it possible that many find this separation comfortable because they don’t feel the need to submit the “secular” parts of their life to God? Just wondering.

I have come to believe that there’s no such thing as “secular.”

Seriously, is there anything in this world that God doesn’t care about and isn’t involved in?

This is why Christians can’t limit our faith to a Sunday church service. We can’t, or at least, shouldn’t keep our faith out of…well, anything! This makes the rest of the world uncomfortable, and it makes us uncomfortable, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

I believe that the modern worship music is an effort break down this wall, because we do listen to it on the radio. It’s not something that is limited to Sunday morning. Contrary to what some think, modern worship music is not an effort to bring the world into our worship, it’s an effort to take our worship with us into the world.

The church will never have the influence in the world it should until we realize that there’s no such thing as “secular.”

It’s all “sacred.”


Exodus 12:31-42

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Exodus 12:31-42
31 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as you have said. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”

33 The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. 35 The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. 36 And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Just use your imagination today, and picture this:
Try to imagine getting this group organized and moving together: 600,000 men plus women and children and all their flocks and herds. (vs. 37-38)
Also, get your mind around the 430 years they were in Egypt. (vs. 40) Almost twice as long as the United States has existed.
I’m not really in a hurry, but when it’s time, it’s time!

My Weekend Picks for 1-29-2016

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Kill Your (Celebrity Culture) WorshipMike Cosper
“…rather than focus on musical styles—which are always the topic of debates, trends, and preferences (just read J. S. Bach’s letters)—I think we should zero in more closely on the trouble with celebrity culture. Celebrity culture turns pastors and worship leaders into icons. Celebrity culture turns worship gatherings into rock concerts. Celebrity culture confuses flash and hype for substance.”

I’m sharing this because it’s really, really good and challenging…
…not just because Mary and I are related…

What in the world are You doing?Mary Graham
what in the world
“So much of what I’ve always thought about Jesus was because I was an American following Jesus. I’m a white, middle class, educated, Jesus follower. Those are some hard obstacles to overcome when I’m looking at what real wealth in Jesus is. Those are some huge barricades to get past when I live in a culture all about encouraging me to reward myself for my hard work, my “busy” life, and my growing bank account.

Believing those lies makes the Gospel inaccessible for millions and millions of people.”

Why It Never Helps to Pass the BuckMichael Hyatt
A_Seal_Team_is_coming_out_of_water“I once had a boss who with the reputation of being very harsh. He could be hard on people. But that wasn’t my experience. Why? I knew the secret.

My boss was definitely tough. On a few different occasions I saw him chew a person’s face off. But here’s why: He hated it when someone tried to shift blame for an outcome, especially someone in leadership.

One of the most important marks of an effective leader—a leader that other leaders can trust—is the willingness to accept total responsibility for the outcome.

I came to my boss several times with major problems—million-dollar problems. But I owned it. Instead of blasting me, he leant support, patience, and advice.”

Lazy Susan…
Click image for a larger version. Source: Pearls Before Swine

Exodus 12:1-30

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Exodus 12:1-30
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.[a]

“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord‘s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

24 You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. 25 And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord‘s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.

28 Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Why do you think I spared the Israelites this misery?
Why do you think I spare you?
Do you think they would’ve forgotten about it without my specific instruction?
Would you? Do you?
Remember this: “And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you…” (vs. 13)

My Picks for Thursday 1-28-2016

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Magnify the Lord WITH MEJamie Brown
1“The more complicated job of a worship leader is to convince everyone else on the platform with him or her that they are also worship leaders. When the members of a choir, and the band, and the pastors, and the technical team all see themselves as worship leaders, and demonstrate a heart like David’s, then a congregation finds itself increasingly drawn in to exalt the greatness of God.”

Colton Dixon and the “Craziness” of Saving Sex for Marriage
Trevin Wax
colton-dixon-annie-coggeshall-wedding-6“As Christians, we should get used to being labeled “freaks” and “morons” and “silly” for our views on sexuality. The idea that sex outside of marriage is sinful draws cultural scorn.

The temptation for the Church is to fire back, to condemn the world and run down a list of biblical “do’s” and “don’ts.” Instead, if we are to be effective missionaries in this culture, we should try to show why God’s design is not only right, but also beautiful.”

You might find this helpful…

How to rid your Facebook feed of all those terrible viral news storiesKabir Chibber
“A couple of years ago, you may have liked the Facebook pages of some cool new digital media outlets, and maybe even a few older traditional ones too. You started to see a few stories sprinkled in your feed, and they added something to your life. You liked, clicked, and shared them with your friends. All was right with the world.

Then, the volume of posts increased. And they all started to look the same

Here’s how to take more control of your Facebook feed from the viral-content machine.”

Our Prayer Instincts Are BackwardsAndrew Wilson
Our Prayer Instincts Are Backwards“Left to our own devices, we pray the Lord’s Prayer backwards. Without being taught, we say help, then sorry, then please do X for me, and then please do Y for others…

Yet Jesus taught us to pray it forwards. The topsy-turvy order of the Lord’s Prayer is one reason it is so remarkable.”

Should I stay or should I go?


Exodus 11:1-10

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Exodus 11:1-10
The Lord said to Moses, “Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely. Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor, for silver and gold jewelry.” And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people.

So Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’ And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, you and all the people who follow you.’ And after that I will go out.” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”

10 Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Let this event really sink in today.
Think about the people in your circle who would die.
Can you imagine the sorrow in your family?
Your community? Your nation?
What kind of a God do you think I am?
I told you to remember chapter 7 verse 5. Look at it again.
Do you think they knew? Do you?

My Picks for Wednesday 1-27-2016

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

This looks like a book worth reading…

Under Our Skinbook review by Tim Challies
“Do you remember Benjamin Watson’s Facebook post from November 14, 2015? The news had just gone out that a St. Louis County grand jury had decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Watson, a professional football player, took to Facebook with a post that would soon be “liked” nearly a million times and shared more than half a million more.

Watson received significant amounts of both praise and criticism for his words. It came as no surprise to me that he was soon invited to switch genres and to turn his brief article into a full-length book. The result is Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race–And Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations That Divide Us…

…We have probably grown wearily accustomed to athletes who tack Jesus onto their lives as a kind of superstitious afterthought, but this is clearly not the case with Watson. He is a man who gets it—who gets the gospel and its implications for all of life.”

The Problem With Modernizing Your Worship Services
David Santistevan
The problem with
“Your goal as a worship leader isn’t to be creative to the exclusion of engagement. Participation will always win the day. Always.

A better question is, “How can we make our worship fresh?”

“Modern” feels like we’re trying to keep up with the times, comparing ourselves to what is happening around us.

“Fresh” says, “What do our people need? What will help engage them in worship on a deeper level? What will help them see their place in the story of God a little clearer?

Here are 5 ways to make your worship services fresh…”

Whether or not Trump wins, the Republican Party may never recoverLiam Kennedy
“Throughout the 2016 Republican primary campaign, the electorate’s fears and resentments have been whipped into a frenzy. Jobs are insecure and living standards stagnant or falling; immigration is destroying the fabric of the nation; national security is imperiled by imminent terrorist attacks; the government is scheming to take away Americans’ guns…

…It is a constituency to which the absolutism of Trump’s rhetorical style plays well – and in appealing to it he has revealed the chasm that has opened between the Republican establishment and its base…

…The long-cherished establishment assumption that American politics inevitably re-centres itself through the electoral process is now being sorely tested. There is growing evidence that “negative partisanship” is taking over American politics and the electorate has become more ideological and tribal.

This will be a challenge for the Democrats too – but right now, the Republicans are being consumed by a storm of animosities and passions which they simply cannot control. Whether or not Trump wins the nomination, the fallout could shatter the party for years to come.”

Source: Bizarro

Exodus 7:14-10:29

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Exodus 7:14-10:29

This is a little longer than most of the passages we’ve been reading. This is where you’ll read about the first 9 of the 10 plagues God brought upon the Egyptians. We’re not going to break it up because it’s more effective to take it all in. I’m not going to copy it here so follow the link above and read it there. It won’t take that long to read. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
What was Pharaoh’s problem?
What do you learn about me through all this?
I’ve asked it before, but what kind of a God do you think I am?
How do I fit into your carefully constructed “god-box”?